Business in France




IB15B group student

Vardenis Pavardenis


Vardenis Pavardenis

Vilnius, 2016



BASIC FACTS..............................


TU AND VOUS..............................

OTHER SIGNS OF RESPECT..............................

PERSONAL SPACE & TOUCHING.............................

EYE CONTACT AND MANNERS..............................

VIEWS OF TIME..............................

BUSINESS CARDS..............................

MEETINGS AND NEGOTIATIONS.............................

IT DOESN’T HURT TO BE ELOQUENT..........................



BUSINESS DRESS CODE..............................

GIFT GIVING..............................


CULTURAL TABOOS..............................





Footwear company „Žygio batai“ is planning to expand to France and acquire new company called „Sigismond chaussures“. As we all know, the country has different traditions, et

tiquette and manner. France in general is very different from Lithuania or any other baltic country. So, in order to succeed before we enter to the France market we need to meet with their traditions. That is why I have made a research about doing business in France.


-The official name of France is the French Republic.

– Official language – French.

– The capital and largest city is Paris, also known as “City of Lights”

– France’s population is 65 million people.

– France is the world’s leading tourist de

estination in terms of visitor numbers ahead of the USA and China, averaging more than 80 million per year.

– There are already 20,000 foreign business with offices in France, accounting for around 2 million employees. 1


In much of the European Union, En

nglish is the language used for international business dealings. In France however, the situation is rather different. The French are extremely proud of their language, and there may not be another culture that so regards the language it speaks as such a symbol of the country itself. Begin the greeting by shaking hands, and note that the French typically shake quicker and less firmly. Avoid first names, instead using their surname. French people often introduce themselves surname first, so pay close attention when you’re shaking hands. It is no secret to anyone that in France, the only way to say hello is by using their national language, for example: foreigners do not say „Hello“, they say „Bonjour“. For French people, in
naptitude to say „Bonjour“ or to know other basic French phrases is a huge insult and their culture contempt. However, if there was no time to learn the language, least that can be done is an apology for lack of fluency early on.  International business colleagues will appreciate the effort, and the conversation will then likely switch to English or a hybrid of the two languages.

French puts a premium on individuality, which allows for both freedom of opinion an

nd very separate social and personal lives. This same principle extends to a cultural mistrust of uncertainty in business, with strict attention to rules and regulations allowing everyone to know their place even as friendships within a set social circle prove intimate and incredibly long-lasting.

French businessmen and women like to keep things formal to start, adhering to that strict distinction between the personal and private on the one hand and the public and professional on the other. Do not interpret such strict professionalism however, to mean that the French do not appreciate expressing oneself. The French communication style, like its rules of attire, focus on classiness over flashiness, and this is a good rule to follow. (Melanie Jones, 2011)2


The main difference between French and English verbal communication styles is the 2nd person pronoun. In English, there is only “you” to represent the second person who you are talking with. On the other hand, in French, there are two words of 2nd person pronoun to use in different occasion which are “Tu” and “Vous”. Tu is used when you talk with only one person while Vous is used when talking with two or more people. Using wrong pronoun will generate the negative look. Beside, “Tu” can be used with people you familiar with such as friends or family and “Vous” can be used with people you don’t know or people in higher position. (Kelly, n.d.)3



In French culture, it is polite to call someone you don’t know well madame, mademoiselle or monsieur. For example, when you’re asking direction from stranger or when you’re asking someone to do a favor for you. Moreover, you should put the word “please” in the sentences or else the French might consider you as rude. (Kelly, n.d.)3


Another question is how to behave in a meeting with somebody or during the discussions. In Eastern Europe, kissing or touching is inadequate and is not seen very often, but in France greeting is included with handshakes and kisses, though this move should be initiated by a female coworker first if you are male. When they say hello or goodbye, they will kiss on both cheeks, start with right cheek. However, there is no real contact between lips and cheeks while kissing. People from other area of French might have different tradition for kissing, they might do it one, three, or four times. After the greeting, the appropriate amount of personal space between you and your business colleague should be an arm’s length or a bit closer. (Melanie Jones, 2011)2


As with every culture, the French respond to certain physical cues that indicate respect or competence. Maintaining direct eye contact while speaking for example, makes for a good first impression, and correct posture and keeping your hands out of your pockets are musts. However, if you stare at someone for too long, it’s not polite also. Therefore, a quick glance with smile is enough. (Kelly, n.d.)3


In France it is vital to ensure that you make appointments for both business and social occasions. It is not acceptable in France to ‘drop in’ on someone unannounced and such conduct will be taken as an act of rudeness, whatever the occasion. While you should strive to be punctual, you will not be considered to be late, should you arrive ten minutes after the scheduled time.

Punctuality is treated quite casually in France, although there are some regional differences, the further South you go the more casual the approach to time is. The French themselves have a very relaxed attitude when attending appointments themselves, so do not be surprised to find your French colleague arriving fairly late. The French consider this a prerogative, so do not expect any apologies- but as ever it will depend who you are dealing with. However, staying late at the office is common, especially for individuals in more senior positions.

For social events, being on time is more important, especially if your hosts have cooked a meal. 4


When exchanging business cards, present yours first and then take that of your French colleagues. Don’t put it immediately in your pocket — treating a business card with respect shows your respect for the person represented on it, and is greatly appreciated. 1


When doing business in France, the formality of the proceedings and almost obsessive adhesion to hierarchy and protocol can seem stuffy, cold or unnecessarily strict. It is important to recognize however, that business dealings are really operating on two levels.

Avoid signs of impatience or giving away too many personal details. The French like to work through things in their own time, and often complain that businesspeople lecture rather than converse. Being too friendly on the one hand and too impatient on the other comes off as having bad taste. Debate in France can often be seen as highly confrontational by those from a non-confrontational background. In France, the drawing of distinction is almost an intellectual goal – a goal which will help to move the process forward. Building on similarities is not seen as such a positive. (Melanie Jones, 2011)2

During discussions, interruptions will often occur, with other parties in the conversation joining in and emotions can seem to be running high. This animated, somewhat theatrical style is, again, viewed as conducive to reaching the end results. The French admire the logical exposition of well defined ideas and when listening can be heard making such comments as – ‘it’s not logical’, which is a good indication that problems lie ahead. Such a comment might be more accurately interpreted as ‘ I don’t see the logic of your argument, therefore I can’t buy it.’ 5

Arguing is a frequent aspect of business negotiation, but this is not about winning a point, or about intimidation: this is a way to analyze positions, again through a dependence on and great respect for logical thought, with a lack of logic viewed as at best sloppy and at worst lacking in intelligence or merit. Business discussions are intellectual exercises, and should be treated as such. If a stalemate is reached in an argument, French businessmen and women sometimes start restating their positions. This is not a refusal to compromise, but rather an indication that it is now up to you to take apart their arguments and approach the issue from a different angle. Frenchmen and women are not looking for an easy consensus: disagreements are more useful, and often far more interesting. The French conversation style, especially in business, puts an emphasis on being direct and questioning. They are most receptive to rational presentations that are well organized and presented, and will respect a low-key manner (avoid yelling, hand-waving or hyperbole) used to clearly highlight benefits.

Besides face to face interaction, written business French is extremely strict and formal with an etiquette which can seem anachronistic in translation. However, it is important that anything sent in writing is rigorously checked, as the ability to produce correct written language is seen as a sign of intelligence and good education. (Melanie Jones, 2011)2


Coupled with this stress on logic is, of course, an equal emphasis on charisma. How you argue a position in France is often as important as the argument itself, and serves as a clear indicator that you take the work seriously and are capable of nuanced thought.

Eloquence is seen as a cardinal virtue in France, and French managers have been known to rise to their positions, and run their businesses, in part through the force of their rhetoric. Long-term relationships are a stable of French business dealing, and getting to know a person is done a part through reading how they present themselves and their ideas.

Coupled with this respect for articulateness meanwhile, is proof of some intellectual adroitness, and a strong educational background. A good school and a ready intellectualism are valuable commodities in France, and a person’s character is evaluated on their integrity and presentation more than by a list of accomplishments. If you’re comfortable enough in the language, or lucky enough to work with those who speak English fluently, don’t hold back about engaging in intellectually heady debates or cultural discussions, especially those involving cuisine, art, music or philosophy.

One are to tread with caution however, is humor. Though the French are known for their distinctive brand of humor, comedy almost never translates well, and wit and satire, the two French strongholds, suffer especially in transit from one language to another. Unless you’re fluent in French, it’s best avoided. (Melanie Jones, 2011)2


Business lunches are often very long, running two hours or more, and may not even involve discussing business at all. Instead, they are often used as a way to build the close relationships that sustain business ties, or perhaps to discuss the finer points of an argument or contract detail.

Lunches are a big affair, so be sure to come hungry. Most consist of an appetizer, a main meal, a cheese course and dessert, with wine and coffee to drink.

If you’re at a dinner party, don’t start eating until the host says bon appetite. Pass dishes to the left, keep wrists above and elbows off the table, and eat with your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right, Continental-style. Good table manners are very important, so follow your colleagues’ lead. Try not to add seasons to your food, since this implies the food is tasteless or poorly done.

If you are doing business outside Paris and want to impress your colleagues and host, do a bit of research on the cuisine in their region, as French food varies from area to area and is heavily influenced by what is grown locally. If you’re eating at a restaurant, also be sure to remember that the person extending the invitation is almost always the one who pays. (Melanie Jones, 2011)2


French people, especially those in business, couple a deep pride in their own country with an abiding curiosity about other cultures, and respect someone who can speak about their country’s culture, history and politics in an educated and eloquent way.

Personal ideology is also welcome in discussions, and the French appreciation for individualism carries through to a sincere admiration for freedom of opinion and knowledge of the intricacies of one’s beliefs, allowing for impassioned discussion that will strengthen, not limit, a professional relationship with your French colleagues.

Discussion of French cultural topics is also welcomed and appreciated, though any criticism of Napoleon is greatly discouraged. (Melanie Jones, 2011)2


As you would expect, the nation that created ‘haute couture’ puts a premium on style. Fashion and appearance are much more important in France than in most other countries in the world. Even low-paid, entry-level executives buy the best clothes they can afford. Generally, dress tends to be on the formal side for both men and women, whether in business or social situations. As the French will perceive the way you dress as being a reflection of your social status and relative success, do your best to make clothing choices that are tasteful and stylish.

High quality and conservative suits and accessories are recommended. Men should wear dark suits, particularly during the winter and when visiting the north. You’ll notice that men’s suits made in France are cut differently. In France, executives usually do not loosen their ties or take off their jackets while at the office, or in restaurants. Never be the first to shed your jacket. As blue shirts are worn by raw French military recruits, you may be labelled ‘Un bleu’, the French version of a ‘greenhorn’ if you choose blue for your shirt.

Frenchwomen are particularly fashion conscious in both their social and business wear, and are famous for their restrained, feminine chic. Visitors are advised to dress simply and with elegance. A well-tailored business suit or dress is appropriate and good shoes are a must. Careful accessorising r (even of simple outfits), is also widely seen in France. French women are also more careful with makeup than many of their European counterparts and place a huge emphasis on skin care and maintaining a slender figure. 4


Gift-giving among business associates is not common practice in France. To express appreciation to a French business contact, it may be better to host a special event or dinner than to give a business gift. Gifts are however expected at social events, especially to thank the host/ess of private dinner parties.

If you are invited to a French home, consider it a rare honor. Bring flowers, quality chocolates or liqueur for the host, and present your gift before the entertaining proceeds. Flowers should be sent in advance on the day of the dinner (popular in Paris) so that the hostess has time to arrange them and is not faced with this task when she is busy with a meal, or else unwrap them before presenting them to your hostess. In accordance with the old European tradition, a bouquet should have an odd number of flowers, but never seven or thirteen. Do not take a gift of wine, since the host usually prefers to make the evening’s selection. The only possible exceptions to this would be a special French dessert wine or high-quality liqueur. Other exceptions if you really want to bring a bottle of wine would be one from your own country or a bottle of Champagne. If you have been a guest at a dinner party or similar social gathering in a home, ensure that you send a thank-you note to your hosts the next day. Preferably, your note should be handwritten and delivered by La Poste. Sending flowers or a basket of fruit is another thoughtful gesture appreciated by the French.

Be aware that displays of warmth and generosity between business associates are not the norm in French business culture. Giving presents is acceptable here, but exercise discretion. Business gifts are usually not exchanged at the first meeting. Give a good quality gift or none at all. Gifts are expected for social events, especially as a thank-you after a dinner party. Give candy, macaroons, cakes and flowers. A gift should be of high quality and beautifully wrapped. Esoteric books and music are often valued as gifts. Make sure, however, that you are reasonably acquainted with the recipient’s interests and tastes before making this kind of gift purchase. Good gift selections can also include coffee table books about your home country, or anything that reflects the interests of your hosts and is representative of your country. Do not offer gifts with your company logo stamped on them (the French consider this vulgar). French business etiquette dictates that you do not include your business card with a gift. Never send a gift for a French colleague to his/her home unless it is related to a social event. Card giving at holidays is appropriate and appreciated. Thanking business partners for the previous year’s business and wishing them a prosperous year to come is a sentiment that will be received with gratitude. The practice in France is to send New Year’s greetings and this can occur during the whole month of January but not later. 4


Avoid gum chewing, snapping your fingers, or slapping your palm with your fist, as these habits are considered vulgar. Also, never make an okay sign with your fingers, as in France this symbol means nothing or zero. To show approval, simply raise your thumb. 3


In France there are a number of issues that are considered inappropriate and that you should be aware of in order to avoid insulting your French counterparts and showing disrespect for their views and values:

Don’t start a conversation in English, try to speak French even if your language knowledge is limited, you will increase your chances of a positive business meeting.

Don’t ask “how much is your salary?”

Do not shake hands if you are exchanging ‘la bise’ – the kiss on the cheek, which is done at least twice.

Do not address anyone with “tu” – which is the informal term for ‘you’ use “vous” instead.

Try not to call or meet anyone during their lunch break 12 till 2pm – unless you have been invited for a lunch meeting.

Typical discussion topics do not include your wealth – showing off your wealth is considered bad taste.

French organisations are very hierarchical and communications across these lines can be a time consuming process, if you want to speak to the manager, speak to them directly.

Chewing gum in public is considered vulgar.

Keep your hands out of your pockets when in public.

Slapping an open palm over a closed fist is offensive to the French.

Snapping fingers is also considered offensive.

It is extremely bad manners to ask a French individual about his political leanings or how he voted. You can enquire however about the political system or public opinion about political leaders.

Do not criticize Napoleon, since he represents a part of the French spirit.

Refrain from using any standard conversation openers such as, ‘What do you do?’

Politeness is of the utmost importance to the French. Any rudeness will not be easily forgotten or forgiven. 6


Doing business in France is a challenging and exciting affair. However, this is dependent on those doing business there preparing themselves for cross cultural differences and approaching situations with an open-mind through appreciating differences in etiquette, approach and style in business. 7 Remember that French are straightforward and if you accidently make mistake talking with them or even when greeting with each other, the situation and the approach of French can suddenly turn to very unpleasant and inhospitable. Also, do not forget cultural taboos before going to France and always take some time to inquire about region culture in which you travel.

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